Thursday, 14 May 2009

How does thriller conventions build up suspense?

How does the use of thriller conventions build up suspense?

John Carpenter the director of ‘the fog’ was highly influenced by the works of Alfred Hitchcock the director of ‘psycho’, and was intrigued by his use of techniques in creating and building up suspense. Therefore i have analysed John Carpenters opening of the fog, as i believe it contains all the conventions needed in building up suspense.

The Fog opening scene

The opening starts with a shot of a ticking, brass pocket watch that is swinging in the darkness. The camera then pans across to two kids, whose faces and bodies are mostly in darkness, only slightly lit up by a campfire. The camera then cuts back to the pocket watch, which is then quickly snapped shut and the non diegetic sound it very loud compared to the silence beforehand. This has the potential to make many people jump. The whole of the opening is very suspenseful, with kids and a old man sitting round a camp fire on the beach just before midnight. Everything is pitch black accept a camp fire that has lit up their faces. The use of kids shaded by the darkness, creates the feeling of vulnerability and then campfire creates a kind of warmth feeling, possibly representing safety and protection. The use an old man telling old ghost stories, about the beach that they are all on now, creates a sense of tension and fear. The camera towards the end of the first sequence, pans upwards towards the pitch black sky. It is the perfect suspenseful opening, and grabs your attention with its original idea.

Psycho opening shower scene

The opening scene starts of with the camera tracking the movement of a young, attractive woman. Several medium shots are used when she is washing in the shower, and the fact that she is nude makes her more vulnerable. An over the shoulder shot is used, when the camera focuses in on a dark shape behind the shower curtain which gradually draws closer and closer. This creates and builds up a great amount of suspense and tension and also makes the audience feel on edge. The curtain is vigorously pulled back to a reveal a dark, shady outline of what appears to be a woman. The fact that the killers identity is not revealed adds to the enigma and creates more suspense and mystery for future scenes, and also creates this on going suspicion that there is more than one killer involved. The camera cuts backwards and forwards to a medium shot of the shady, shape of the killer, and then to close up of the woman’s mouth screaming. The music starts when the shower curtain is pulled swiftly back, therefore the sound of high pitched string instruments compliments and emphasise the effect of the shower curtain. The use of the violins, adds to the drama. When the killer is stabbing the woman, the fact that she is in the shower, creates the feeling of being her trapped, therefore hopeless. The close up of the hand, and the use of the music no more, but only the non-digetic sound of the shower water in the background, creates and eerie mood and atmosphere. The medium shot of the woman sliding down the wall with a look of hopelessness on her face creates sympathy. When a transition shot is used to show the plug fade into the eye of the woman, and then the camera then draws away from the eye slightly turning, creating a sort of disorientated feeling as it shows the moment when life is being drained out of the woman. The extreme close up of the eye, is very personal and therefore the audience will feel more of an emotional connection and sympathy towards the woman who lay dead. The scene over all was very quick, and included two contrasts of the violent murder and the quiet stillness of shots where she is slowly dying. The fact that everything is very calm, in the final shots, gives the audience time to reflect on what that have just seen.

The opening of the shinning

The opening scene of the shining started of with many extreme long shots of deserted, dramatic countryside. This sets the atmosphere and creates the creepy feeling of being alone. There is the constant eerie sound track in the background, which suggests the genre of the film is either going to be thriller or horror. When a car comes into focus, the camera pans across the countryside, tracking the movement of the car from a birds eye view. The car is also shown driving across a narrow road, high up amongst the cliff tops. This shows that the people in the car are in potential danger and not secure in their surroundings. The fact that the identity of the person or peoples in the cars are not revealed, builds up suspense as you don’t know whose in the car, what there doing, where there going and for what reasons are they going there for. The audience is left intrigued to what is going to happen in the next sequence, as the opening scene has not given a lot of information away. This is the key to gripping the audiences attention and building up suspense.

The opening of Vacancy

The music in the opening scene is slow paste string instruments, which creates an eerie mood. The first shot is an extreme close up of a number plate of a car, then the car gradually pulls away from the camera to reveal that the object was indeed a car. The shot then cuts to an establishing extreme long shot of the car, traveling through a narrow road that appears to be woodland. It is pitch black and only the car headlights can be seen in the distance. This immediately creates the spooky, sinister atmosphere, and again suggests that the people in the car are in danger as they are alone and in the middle of know where. Peoples expectations suggest that bad things happen at night in the woods, when people are alone and not in there natural surroundings. There are several close ups of the faces of the man and women in the car, which means the audience feel more involved and as if they are actually in the situation with them as the shots are very personal. The first character introduced to us is a man, whose face is only slightly lit. His body gestures suggest that he is tired therefor aggravated. The audience will immediately connect tiredness with car accidents, therefore puts the two peoples lives at risk. The music stops when the camera is focused in on the people inside the car, so that the non-digetic sound of the car wheels screeching and zooming down the road when trying to avoid contact with a racoon, is much more powerful when compared to the silence beforehand. This has the potential to make people jump, and feel unnerved. The audience can immediately establish distancing between the two characters, through their dialogue which suggests that the two characters don’t get on with one another. The use of the knife to cut the apple, can be symbolic of death and torture, which could possibly be a feature in the future scenes. When it comes to the point of view shots, of what the man is seeing when driving and looking out the window, the camera is not in focus, which creates the feeling of disorientation which in this case has the effect on the audience of creating the feeling of tiredness. This is a common factor, that a lot of people in general would have experienced, therefore the audience can relate to the situation. A high angle, long shot is used to establish an old, creepy gas station in the middle of know where. There is slight music in the background, when the couple approach the gas station in their car. The sound adds to the creepiness of the gas station. When the camera uses close up shots of the couples faces within the car, is makes the whole thing seem so much more personal, as they are both in an enclosed space. This is where the audience can make a connection to the characters, therefore what happens to them in the future scenes, will have an impact on the audience. When the camera reveals a medium shot of the man in the car from a side on view, non-Digetic sound is used to emphasise the movement of a man outside the car who swiftly jumps up at the window. This is deliberately done, with the intentions of making the audience jump, as beforehand the couple where focused on looking at a map. It is more easier to make someone jump when they are focused on a task, rather than when there not. The fact that the couple are in a small confined space means that, the audience is also drawn in, when the couple are looking at the map. The man outside the car is all dressed in black, which is a very sinister colour and makes him appear as if he has just emerged from the darkness of his surroundings. This creates the feeling of suspicion. The nervous giggle mainly coming from the women shows that she was uptight and unnerved by the man suddenly appearing. This shows also that she is now more relieved and relaxed, therefore is comfortable in the mans presence, therefore she is not suspicious of him.

audience expectations

From our research on the pearl and dean website we were able to see that thrillers mostly appeal to the male genders age between 16 to 30. We looked at certain aspects that create and build up suspense we would be able to include in our opening. We generally looked at public expectations of what conventions they expect to see in a thriller.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Monday, 27 April 2009

photos of settings and actors

As a group we brainstormed ideas of where to shoot the opening of our thriller. We came to the decision to film at sidcup place as it was outdoors and our college as we needed somewhere that looked like a working environment. We photographed the places before we filmed it so we could analyse how it would look on camera and if it would be ok for our opening. We took the photos at all different angles so that we could see what would be the best angles to film from. Then from the photos we decided what kind of mise-en-scene we would like for our opening. After this we then started to shoot our thriller.